Two years ago, we lauded High Pressure Processing (“HPP”) as “one of the most promising food safety technologies.” As it turns out, we were right.

In 2005, the American Pasteurization Company (“APC”) became the first company in the country to offer HPP on a commercial tolling basis. Just five years after the company opened its doors, we are excited to report that APC has been embraced by industry and the company is expanding.

As we wrote previously, HPP is a post-packaging pasteurization technique. The technology can be applied to food products with high water content, such as ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, seafood, fruits, vegetables and soft cheeses. HPP works by uniformly applying up to 87,000 psi of hydrostatic pressure to foods, often in their final packaging, for up to three minutes. The hydrostatic pressure does not compress the food product, but it does destroy food-borne pathogens and spoilage microorganisms.

APC’s first processing facility in Milwaukee started with just two employees processing about 5,000 pounds of food each week. Today, the company’s staff numbers over 50 and is processing more than 700,000 pounds per week. In order to meet the growing demand, APC just opened a second processing facility in Evansville, Indiana. The company hopes to open even more locations across the United States in the future.

The benefits of HPP are especially significant given its proven ability to eliminate food-borne pathogens in certain products. The emotional and financial toll of a food-borne illness outbreak and product recall can devastate a manufacturer. The average cost of a recall to companies is $10 million, in addition to brand damage and lost sales. Thus, by removing pathogens from treated products, and by extension all associated risk, the long term benefits can be substantial.

HPP can also double a product’s shelf life while simultaneously removing the manufacturer’s need to add chemical preservatives. Longer shelf life means longer production runs and fewer markdowns. The business of one APC customer went from static to growing when, with an extended shelf life, it was able to switch its product from frozen to fresh.

These feats are accomplished without the use of chemicals or irradiation, and amazingly, without affecting product quality, thus satisfying some the most significant consumer issues right now: (1) safe; and (2) natural. While irradiation has remained controversial for many years, HPP is quickly gaining a much wider acceptance.

With regard to regulatory compliance, HPP is USDA and FDA approved and helps processors comply with current Listeria regulations. APC “works with food processors in many ways to make the utilization of HPP as seamless and cost effective as possible.”

So is there any downside to HPP? Well, yes. While HPP makes our ready-to-eat meats, raw shellfish, and salsa safer, the process cannot yet be applied to all foods. The good news is that APC is diligently working to expand HPP’s portfolio of products, which will hopefully someday include ground beef.

We are grateful and happy for our friends at APC who now anticipate processing more than 50 million pounds of safe food each year!